Caracas is the vibrant capital of Venezuela and a real metropole. It has a Caribbean vibe
with hot salsa music blaring out of every passing vehicle. The city was founded in 1567 as
Santiago de León de Caracas by Spanish explorer Diego de Losada.
The valley that cradles the city lies between 2,500 and 3,000 ft (760 and 910 m) above sea level. The valley is close to the Caribbean Sea, separated from the coast by a steep mountain range (Cerro Ávila) that rises above 8,000 ft (2.600 m).
Leafy Plaza Bolívar is the focus of the old town with the inevitable monument to El Libertador, Simon Bolívar, at its heart. Modern high-rise buildings have overpowered much of the colonial flavor of Caracas' founding neighborhood. But the lively area still boasts some important sites.
The Museo Caracas on the ground floor highlights local history, and has some great
models of the city as it appeared in the early 19th century and 1930s. To grasp just how much
this city of almost five million has grown, take a look at the map dating from 1578 in the building's
Skyscrapers may loom overhead the Casa Natal de Bolívar (House of Birth of Bolivar), but there's more than a hint of original colonial flavor in this neatly proportioned reconstruction of the house where Simón Bolívar was born on July 24, 1783. The museum's exhibits include period weapons, banners and uniforms.
Much of the original colonial interior has been replaced by monumental paintings of battle scenes, but more personal relics can be seen in the nearby Museo Bolivariano. Pride of place goes to the coffin in which Bolívar's remains were brought from Colombia; his ashes now rest in the National Pantheon.
Bolívar's funeral was held 12 years after his death at the Iglesia de San Francisco, just a few blocks west, and it was also here that he was proclaimed 'El Libertador' in 1813. The church dazzles the eye with its richly gilded baroque altarpieces, and still retains much of its original colonial interior, despite being given a modernizing once-over by Guzmán Blanco.
Other attractions in Caracas are:
Parque Nacional El Avila, for hiking, head to this mountainous national park which
is filled with trails, but be prepared for wide temperature changes and afternoon rain.
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, housing one of the finest collections of modern art in South America, this world-class museum has high quality works by Picasso, Matisse, Joan Miro and other modern masters.
Iglesia de San Francisco, this historically and artistically significant church, dating back to the late 1500s, was the site of a massive funeral for Simon Bolivar, and remains a beautiful example of colonial architecture.
Parque Los Caobos, a great place for relaxing, walking or jogging, this park, one of the city’s oldest, houses 100-year-old trees and a wonderful century-old fountain with bronze sculptures.
Catedral Metropolitana de Caracas, over 300 pounds (135 kg.) of gold leaf were used to gild the main altar at this late 17th-century cathedral, which also houses the private Bolivar family chapel.
A policeman regulates traffic in Caracas - Venezuela